PT on the Net Research

The Thought Diet - Part 1


Have you been working with clients who struggle to reach their goals or have a hard time maintaining a certain level of success? In this three-part series, I will present some insights as to why that happens and what you can do to help your clients identify where they are going off track. I’ll also provide you with tools and techniques to help get your clients back on the road to success.

Clients come to us for guidance and inspiration and to help them stay on course when it comes to achieving their health and body goals. Traditionally, to help our clients achieve success, we focus on working hard with various training modalities (machines, functional training, cardio exercise, etc.) and eating a healthy diet. If doing those things doesn’t get them to their goals, we make the workout harder, do different exercises, add more work, tweak their diet, etc. The point is, when clients don’t reach their goals, we try to find the action that went awry and fix it. But even when we do that, it’s often not enough.

The fact is, there is much more to success than just the physical action. There is a whole other side to getting in shape beyond the physical body. It’s the being behind the action. If we do not tend to the person, the thinking and emoting human being behind the action and the desires, we may never unleash the client’s true potential. There is more and more evidence that shows how and what we think has an effect on how efficiently our bodies work. Extensive research has shown that every thought we have has an effect on our body: its chemistry, its electricity and its energetic frequencies. I believe it is our job to move beyond being personal trainers and become true exercise professionals. And I believe part of being true exercise professionals includes being able to coach our clients in this new frontier.

In this series, I will share with you a series of questions you can ask your clients that will help you understand where they are in regards to their thoughts about their body, their goals, their beliefs about having what they want and understanding what they believe they need to do in order to get what they want. Understanding where your clients are on these topics will help you to determine whether they are in a place, mentally, to achieve success. If they are not, these articles will give you the tools to help them create a shift in their perspective so they are maximizing the mental process for success. If nothing else, knowing where they are may help you to better understand what to expect from your work together and where to come from in mapping a path that is appropriate for them.

In this article, I will share with you, in detail, the first question and how to use it with your clients along with a technique that will help them shift… when they are ready. In the following articles, I will cover the remaining questions, how to work through them and what to do about making a shift for your client. I will also provide other techniques that will help you coach your client to success.

HPA Axis

One reason why negative thinking can work against someone when it comes to his body is the chemical reaction that happens when the body is under too much stress, either physiological or emotional. Being in a negative, stressful frame of mind can put the body in a chemical state that can cause it to work against the results one was hoping for from exercise.

When the body is under increased levels of stress, your body will go into a state of “fight or flight,” which starts off a chemical cascade to pump the body with the proper survival tools needed to address the situation at hand. This chemical cascading is done through the HPA Axis—the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

When stress is sensed, the hypothalamus is triggered to release a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH, which is also referred to as CRF—corticotropin-releasing factor), which is a polypeptide hormone and neurotransmitter. CRH then stimulates the release of another polypeptide (tropic) hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland. ACTH then acts on the adrenal cortices, which produce a hormone called glucocorticoid, better known as cortisol.

Under normal conditions, cortisol helps to regulate blood pressure, metabolizes glucose, releases insulin for proper blood sugar maintenance, contributes to immune function and responds to inflammation. Under increased amounts of stress, the adrenal glands will pump more cortisol into the bloodstream to help suppress the immune system, arrest the self healing mechanism in the body and mobilize blood sugar stores from the liver and muscles for energy production, all of which are survival mechanisms designed to help you through your ordeal.

Since your adrenal glands don’t know the difference between physical stress and psychological stress, they will increase cortisol production any time the body’s tolerance to stress is breached, no matter what the cause. The more cortisol you produce, the more blood sugar your body will produce from storage. The more blood sugar is converted from liver and muscle storage, the less you burn from fat stores. So, if your client is mentally stressed and your intent when working with that client is to burn off fat through exercise, his state of mind may actually nullify or drastically reduce the results you were hoping to achieve. And consider that when the body is emotionally stressed, the tolerance to handle mechanical stress such as exercise is lowered as well. Adding more stress to a body that is already under stress is not a recipe for success.

As for the mental stress, it can come in many forms. It can be that your client is working out because he hates his body. It can be because he doesn’t like working out (or just the exercises he is doing that day). It could be because he is stressed out about the foods he eats. Or it could be that he is just stressed out about other things in life.

Mental stress can have effects beyond the release of cortisol. The hypothalamus produces other neuropeptides (hormones) that communicate with the cells in the body every time you have a thought. Each of these neuropeptides then becomes an encoded message-sender to cells throughout your body, thus helping to program the cells based on the perceived environment. So if your client thinks “fat,” then there is a good chance the cells will be programmed to behave “fat.”

My intent is to help you help your client manage those thoughts that create stress so as to provide a better environment to achieve success.

I have created five questions that will be addressed in this series. In this first article, I will address the first question. The questions are:

  1. How do you currently feel about your body/health?
  2. What do you want, and when do you want it?
  3. Why do you want what you want?
  4. How much do you believe you can have what you want when you want it?
  5. What do you think you need to do, action wise, in order to achieve those goals?

Our Emotional Indicators

Before I talk in more detail about the first question, we must first talk about emotions, which will serve as indicators to help you identify where your client’s thoughts are in regard to his body and health. Emotions serve us in an amazingly efficient way, if we are willing to listen.

Most people seem to have grown up learning that the world happens to them, and so what happens to them is responsible for the emotions they feel. You hear evidence of this when you hear someone say something like, “She makes me so mad!” Nothing can make you mad. Nothing has that kind of power over the free will of a human being. An emotion like being mad is nothing more than an indicator of how you are looking at your subject. Emotions are nothing more than guideposts along your journey to help you to identify whether your perspective is one that will reward you with what you want. Your emotions always follow your thoughts.

Your thoughts are what give you life. They color your experiences. They help you to come up with solutions to problems. They help you to determine preference and create desires. They are what lead you to take action. Thoughts are the creative aspects of who we are. Emotions are our guide to tell us whether our thoughts are leading us toward what we want or not.

Imagine that at every moment when you have something you don’t like or want, something that could be considered a problem, you create a preference for the opposite, for what you do want, whether you are fully conscious of it or not. This is your original sensation of negative emotion. From there, imagine you have a central command center that, upon the instance of the negative experience, learned what would be the solution to your problem—an expansion from what you are currently experiencing. From that moment, that preference is the only thing your command center takes note of. Your command center is now responsible for directing you from where you are to thoughts that will help you create a solution. So, let’s say your current vantage point is at the level of discouragement. From that standpoint, it is not possible to see a viable solution to the problem. The solution exists at a higher perspective, which has a higher emotion and a corresponding higher frequency. (All thoughts have frequencies, as do all chemicals, because they are made of atoms and all atoms have frequencies.)

Here’s another way to look at it: Without problems, we would not have solutions, and without solutions, we would not have much to live for. Every day of your life is a series of problem solving tasks. When you have something you don’t like, you create a solution, an expansion from “what is.” This is your new quest. We humans thrive in solutions. We thrive in the expansion of “what is.”

So, when your client got to a place where he feels bad about where he is in regards to his body, he launched a preference for a new experience—the problem launched a desire for a solution. What happens is that most people get stuck thinking that their body is what is causing them to feel bad, when in reality it is their point of focus, their interpretation of their body, that has them feeling bad. The emotion of feeling bad, which is designed to get your attention (that’s why it feels uncomfortable), is an indicator of where your perspective is in regard to where you ultimately want to be. And to get to where you want to be (which your command center already knows, because it exists at the highest level of thinking), you have to direct thought toward what you want.

At the moment your client realized she didn’t want what she was experiencing, she launched a desire for something new (i.e., a new body), which is what brought her to you. She ultimately knows that having a new body will help her to feel better, so she goes through all the things she thinks she needs to do in order to get that new body. But what she doesn’t realize is that if she can get to a place where she feels good about where she is, via finding a better perspective (one that is closer to the perspective of her command center), the body she wants will be much easier to attain. The amount of stress she will be under when she is feeling bad about her body should indicate how hard success will be to come by. Help your clients make peace with how they look at their body or health, and you can put them in a place to greatly enhance their chemical state, as well as their energetic state, which will ultimately help their bodies to make progress with less effort.

The First Question: How does your client currently feel about his or her body/health?

The first question is designed to help get a read on how your client feels about where he is. Knowing where he is in relation to where he wants to go will serve as an indicator as to how much mental work needs to be done in order to make for efficient action. Below is a range of emotions (taken from a book called "Ask and It Is Given" by Jerry and Esther Hicks) that which you can use as your guide to gauge where your client is emotionally.

Once you know where your client is, you can then direct him to thinking thoughts that move him in the direction of the solution. You cannot start from a really low perspective, which is indicated by a low emotion and has a low frequency, and jump up to really high perspective, because the frequencies are just too far apart. So the trick is to find the next best feeling thought in regard to where your client is.

Let’s say your client is in a place of discouragement. He is discouraged because of thoughts and beliefs about where he is. At this moment, he has a preference (i.e., to be in a place of joy). He cannot jump from his current perspective, which he most likely has been practicing for quite some time, up to the highest place of his preference. Jumping to a perspective all the way up at the top would not be achievable from his current perspective, and that is often why positive thinking alone is not good enough to make permanent changes. When you jump too far, you don’t get a steady footing at the top, and you eventually fall back to where your last, most dominant perspective was. So the trick is to try and find perspectives a bit higher than where you start and work up slowly.

Tuning Into Indicators

The first order of business before we actually get into helping someone shift to a better perspective is to help him tune into his emotional indicators, as there is a good chance he has become desensitized to them over the years.

The first thing to have your client do is to sit in a quiet place with his eyes closed and take a moment to take stock of how his body feels in a neutral state, paying close attention to his chest, abdomen and neck. From there, have him tune in to something he really enjoys or loves. It could be anything from his favorite movie or material object to a loved one or an experience he has had. Once he has something in mind, have him play in the details of the thought until he feels a change in his body. He should feel the sensation of joy somewhere. It could be in his abdomen or chest. It could be felt as a change in heart rate or temperature. Everyone is different. Once he acknowledges the feeling, have him anchor in that feeling for about 30 seconds.

From there, have him turn his mental focus to his body. With that focus will come a change in how he feels. If he doesn’t like his body, he will notice the chemical and frequency changes from when he had a positive focus. Once he changes his focus, he should pay close attention to how he is looking at his current body or health situation. He should have a reason why he feels the emotion he feels. With that, the language he uses about his current body reality is the language that is causing the emotion, and that is what you want to work on with him by finding slightly better perspectives.

Finding a Better Story Technique

It might help to think of his current vantage point as a story. It is something he learned from someone else or decided through a limited understanding of who he was or could be. Have your client imagine that he is going to report where he is to someone he truly looks up to. He has to report his situation to that person without being negative. The real trick here is to tell the story in a positive way without lying. Meaning, he can’t exaggerate where he is. Instead, he will be forced to “sugar coat” the facts. I call this the next best story.

It might be useful to look at the emotional scale to gauge where he is and then find an emotion that would be just a step up. What emotion would feel a little better than where he currently is? Then he can tell the story of where he is from that emotional standpoint. Once he starts telling the story, whether it is to you, to someone else or in his own head, on paper or on the computer, have him tell that story for at least a minute to anchor it in.

Once he has anchored in a new vantage point, he will be at a higher frequency, which will reduce his stress and move him one step closer to seeing the solution and moving his body into a place of efficiency.

The initial goal here is to have your client be at peace with where he is in regards to his body. To be at peace with his body does not take away the desire for improvement. Actually, what it does is provide your client with a clearer vision of what he wants and take his attention away from what he doesn’t want. Not to mention, from a place of being content (at peace) about where he is, he won’t have nearly the chemical stresses he once had when he felt bad about his body.

In the next article, I will address the next three questions and provide a new technique to help someone shift.

References:

  1. Hicks, Esther and Jerry. “Ask and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires.”  Hay House, October 1, 2004
  2. Kandel, E. Schwartz, J. Jessell, T. The Principles of Neural Science, Fourth Edition, McGraw-Hill, 2000: 974-99
  3. Lipton, B. Ph.D, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing The Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, Mountain of Love, 2005
  4. McCraty, R. et al. The Impact of a New Emotional Self-Management Program on Stress, Emotions, Heart Rate Variability, DHEA and Cortisol, Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 1998;33(2):151-170.
  5. McCraty, R. Tomasino, D. Emotional Stress, Positive Emotions, and Psychophysiological Coherence, Chapter published in: Stress in Health and Disease, edited by B. B. Arnetz and R. Ekman. Weinheim, Germany, Wiley-VCH, 2006: 342-365.
  6. McCraty, R. Children, D. The Grateful Heart: The Psychophysiology of Appreciation, Chapter published in: The Psychology of Gratitude, edited by R. A. Emmons and M. E. McCullough. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004: 230-255.
  7. Pert, C. Ph.D., Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine,
    Simon & Schuster, 1999
  8. Rein, G. McCraty, R. & Atkinson, M. The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger, Journal of Advancement in Medicine 1995;8(2):87-105.
  9. Sternberg, E. M.D., The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions, W. H. Freeman, 2001